Hats off to Dronfield Light Opera Group’s wartime musical

Producer Katie Preece with some of the hats she has collected for Dronfield Light Opera Group's production of Oh What A Lovely War
Producer Katie Preece with some of the hats she has collected for Dronfield Light Opera Group's production of Oh What A Lovely War

According to the old saying: If you want to get ahead, get a hat. And that’s exactly what members of Dronfield Light Opera Group are doing for their next show.

To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, the town’s own musical theatre company is performing Oh What a Lovely War, an ironic critique of the reality of the conflict using popular songs of the period to depict the lives of soldiers on the Western Front.

Originally performed by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1963, it has since become regarded as a classic of modern British theatre. The show has more than 200 characters and when the Dronfield production was in the planning stage, producer Katie Preece came up with the idea of hundreds of hats to distinguish all the characters, their ranks and nationalities.

Says Katie: “With so many people playing so many roles we thought hats was the ideal way to show who they are and what they represent. It has been great fun collecting hats from all sorts of sources and we are grateful to the many people and organisations who have helped us to find them all.”

The group has also spent many hours sourcing some of the music and songs, and musical director Karen Cook has set the group some challenging tasks.

During the production, as the songs are being sung, slides will show what was actually happening on the Western Front, along with new flashes of the progress of the war and the almost unbelievable toll it was taking.

Says Katie: “The power of the production is therefore the startling contrast between the songs and the reality.”

Oh What a Lovely War is at Dronfield Civic Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday May 21 to 24 at 7.30, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

l For tickets, call 01246 416364.